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German Cinema

German Cinema

It can be said that the Germans invented a technique to capture animated movements before the Lumiere brothers. However, Max and Emil Sklandanowky the inventors of the impressive bioscope, realized the French counterpart superiority.

The Student of Prague

The Student of Prague

The Beginnings

Like in many other countries, the German cinema was influenced by literature and other fine arts, which allowed it to produce complex productions. One of the first attempts was The Student of Prague, a film adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe book, produced in 1913 under Paul Wegener’s visionary mind.

The following years witnessed the film industry popularization. Eager for new tendencies, the Germans made remarkable efforts to take Danish, French or Italian movies to the cinema theatres. Those productions were easily saw by the German public due to the language barrier wasn’t a problem thanks to the silent films.

With the World Wars, Garman film industry was used as a powerful weapon, taken as the main way to promote the Nazi ideology. Thus, the German films became the biggest in Europe and the perfect platform to give birth to huge big screen stars such as actress Henny Porten.

The expressionism era

When the World War I finished, new filmmakers took part with innovative ideas longing to surprise the audiences and offer new and creative alternatives. Consequently, directors such as  Robert Wiene with his stunning success Doctor Cagliari’s Cabinet reached fame by the new expressionist movement.

In addition, another expressionism masterpiece was the adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The astonishing film, directed by Wilhelm "F. W." Murnau and titled Nosferatu, tells the story of a terrifying vampire carrying diseases and death with him. The movie became a cult film and Mark Shreck, the actor who performed as the vampire was credited all sort of urban legends. It was even said that he was a real vampire.

Another important expressionism film was Metropolis. Directed by Fritz Lang in 1927, the production became the most important futuristic movie with an argument that contrasted those years social crisis and the though capitalism ideology. The film was restored by Giorgio Modores in 1984. Curiously, some extracts of the movie were included by the british rock band Queen in the video of their single Radio GaGa.




Die Grosse Liebe

Die Grosse Liebe

Nazi cinema and the post-war era

In the same way the film industry was used in the World War I as a propaganda instrument, the Nazi party took advantage of the wide reach provided by movies. As soon as they could, the Proaganda Ministry took over all the productions and expelled the Jews, provoking a huge actors and directors exodus.

Along those years, the Propaganda Ministry obliged its directors and actors to produce successful films such as Die Grosse Liebe (1942) y  Wunschkonzert (1941), which combined musical, romance and patriotic elements to produce box-office hits.

By the end of the war, the censorship of some subjects was over and the Jews were allowed to return freely to produce, act and direct. However, in the next two decades most of the films treated the cliché subjects like the struggles of war and the social challenges after it finished. The first movie produced after the war finished was The Murders are Among Us (1946).


The new wave of German cinema

In the post-war days the German film industry experiences a lack of creativity, partially caused by the massive exodus of directors and actors in the previous years. The arguments remained the same and nor the language or photography were renewing.

It all changes in the first years of the 60s when independent movements realized the changes taken in other fine arts such as theatre and literature.

Everything changes in the early 60s when several independent movements become alert of new trends in theater, literature and other arts, and join them in the  Oberhausen Manifesto, which proclaims that the success of German films has to be in the hands of new talents and creative proposals.

The main exponents of the movement were Werner Herzog’s films as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Volker Schlöndorff with The Rebel and The Tin Drum (1979), the first German film to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


Aguirre, the Wrath of God



The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others

German cinema today

From the 80s, German cinema gained again commercial successful. Movies like The Submarine (1981) and A Story That Never Ends (1984), both directed by Wolfgang Petersen, marked a transition era, being the first German film to this day that holds the record for most Oscar nominations.

In recent years, several German productions have succeeded not only in Europe and the U.S., but also have gained recognition in the Latin American and Asian markets due to distribution agreements. Among the most outstanding films of recent years are Tykwer Rom’s Run Lola Run, Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin!, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s The Experiment and Downfall. All of them were nominated at festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and the Oscar, Goya and BAFTA Awards.

Perhaps the most successful German film in recent years is Dennis Gansel’s The Wave (2008), a dramatic fictional story that revives a new kind of fascism as a result of a sociology class project in a public school.

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